Capitalism and the Covid-19 Crisis: One class accumulates victims, the other accumulates profits

Statement by the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR)

Protest in Colombia. Photo: Leon Hernandez via Flickr
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As of this writing, over four million people worldwide have died as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is well known that most of these victims were working class — the employed as well as the desperately poor and the precariat — the class unable to confine itself at home. The pandemic has also clearly illustrated that the working class is the one essential class, having nursed the sick, fed the world and developed a vaccine while the bourgeoisie sheltered in its mansions.

The different capitalist states, with only minimal variations, protected the wealthy while sacrificing the working class and the poor. With the advent of Covid-19 vaccines, unequal access to healthcare systems, worsened by decades of neoliberal reforms, became a major crisis in all countries, and under governments of diverse political orientations.

This was exacerbated by the inequality that exists not just between classes but among rich and poor countries. In many places of the underdeveloped world, vaccination is inaccessible while rich countries have monopolized the doses for their citizens.

Today the world is divided between countries where the pandemic is beginning to be perceived as yesterday’s problem and countries where the pandemic persists as a scourge with no solution in sight. Meanwhile, the big pharmaceutical companies are getting unabashedly richer even though they developed these vaccines through public funding. As a result, at one pole fantastic profits are accumulating, while at the opposing pole death continues to rage.

The pandemic has highlighted already intolerable, dangerously increasing unemployment and overall job insecurity. 

This has occurred along with labor disorganization due to confinement and an increase in remote work. The proletariat has had to concentrate on survival, while the bourgeoisie has been able to strengthen its position on the international chessboard. 

This has occurred due in many instances to the failure of labor and social movement leaderships to mobilize workers and the oppressed to demand conditions of survival in the face of the pandemic.

Upheaval in the internal situation in some countries has opened the way for the most aggressive governments to try and act without restraint. For example, Israel largely abandoned concern for “international public opinion” and escalated its offensive against the Palestinians, in bombardment of Gaza, expansion in the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. Elsewhere in the world, China advanced its offensive in Hong Kong, imposing increasingly undemocratic legislation on that city.

However, Israel was forced to retreat from its offensive due to the militant protests of the Palestinians who fought until the plan to colonize Jerusalem was overturned. The Zionists were also stopped from launching a military invasion of Gaza by international protests. 

Since 2008, global capitalism had already been experiencing economic stagnation, but the pandemic accelerated this process and ended up producing the biggest crisis in a century. The biggest in a century! 

In this context, the main imperialist governments, like that of President Biden, have had to revise the neoliberal orthodoxy of the last decades in favor of a greater role of the state in reactivating the economy. It is not that President Biden is changing imperialist ideology, but the reality is that maintaining U.S. world hegemony requires adjusting some measures. 

The world is undergoing important changes in the absence of organized international workingclass leadership and revolutionary parties. This problem will not be easily resolved. However, the present situation of the working class, characterized by attacks and partially paralyzed struggles, does not come from an historical defeat, such as fascism, but from a temporary setback.

Before the pandemic, protests erupted in various parts of the world. These now are beginning to emerge once more at differing levels of intensity. The ongoing street mobilizations in Colombia, the country most aligned with U.S. imperialism in all Latin America, are especially significant and heroic. Similar processes, which had been suspended due to the pandemic, are now beginning to reappear in Chile and Brazil. In Argentina, recently, the government was forced to concede to the demand to decriminalize abortion. In the same vein, the feminist movement in Mexico has recently resurged. In the United States, the structural violence that triggered the rage against the murder of George Floyd has not disappeared, so it is only a matter of time before large-scale protests return there.

We revolutionaries must be there in the midst of these struggles, proposing what other forces ignore and raising the need for socialism and Left regroupment to consolidate a revolutionary leadership to advance the struggle for workers’ power. It is impossible to overlook that today the healthcare systems are in worse shape than a year and a half ago and that the health of the majority of workers and the poor has deteriorated not only due to Covid-19 but also results from the havoc created by the crisis of a system that has transformed everything into commodity production for profit.

CRIR demands:  

  • Remove all vaccine patents controlled by pharmaceutical companies.
  • Set up a global vaccine production and distribution system of Covid-19 drugs and medical devices, expropriating the large enterprises in this sector.
  • Expropriate and nationalize under workers control all industries and transnational corporations whose products are essential to meet medical needs.
  • Nationalize all private healthcare to put this at the service of the whole population.
  • Cancel all internal and foreign debt owed by poor countries to international speculators, the IMF and World Bank.
  • Tax the richest and multinational corporations and seize the bank accounts and property of tax cheaters.
  • Expropriate and place in the hands of the working class all banks, multinational corporations, and strategic enterprises.
  • Unconditional decriminalization of abortion, more urgent in this economic crisis.
  • Rapidly move to the total abandonment of fossil energy to save the planet.
  • Organize mass mobilizations in the streets by the working class, popular masses and the oppressed with militant methods of struggle and self-defense.
  • Intervene in the electoral arena promoting these demands and, where possible, launch anti-capitalist, working-class candidates.

• • •

CRIR seeks to collaborate with labor and socialist groups on these issues. The regroupment of revolutionaries is a priority and it is urgent to put aside sectarianism.

Committee for International Revolutionary Regroupment (CRIR)
Partido Socialismo y Libertad – Argentina
Movimento Revolucionário Socialista – Brasil
Freedom Socialist Party – United States and Australia
Partido Obrero Socialista – México


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